Monday, August 22, 2011

Setting Goals

I've seen quite a few people talking about setting goals lately. I know that making goals specific and time dependent increases our chances of meeting them, but that isn't always so easy to do. And what if those don't encompass what you really want? I'd like to propose a revised 6 point goal setting model. Indulge me for a moment and then let me know what you think.

  1. Acknowledge what it is you REALLY want. Sometimes we disguise our loftiest goals from even ourselves. What are you after? Don't worry - no one's going to hear it to judge you. Do you want traditional publication? To hold your book in your hand? What is it that would really make your wildest dreams? Being on the best-seller list? Go ahead and say it. At least to the mirror.
  2. Look yourself in the eye (yeah we're still using the mirror) and tell yourself that you CAN accomplish this. Let yourself know that it's going to take a LOT of hard work and perseverance, but that if you are willing to make sacrifices and keep at it, it IS possible. 
  3. Tell yourself there is no time limit on this ultimate goal. That as long as you never give up, it is always possible. Then...
  4. Prepare yourself to streamline your path to success by making a series of smaller goals that naturally build toward the BIG ONE. E.g., "I'm going to finish a rough draft by November." Or "I'm going to complete my edits by my birthday." Or "I'm going to attend X conference and query 7 agent next month." Things like that. Those are your specific and time oriented goals, but now they mean more because you know where they will lead. 
  5. Write down each item as you accomplish it. Because why not take a look at all you've done? Sometimes we see only the failures, so why not take a good honest look at our successes too?
  6. The higher you aim, the higher you reach. Finally, I've found that if I shoot for the stars, I can reach at least the moon. But if I reach for the moon, I may not make it out of the atmosphere. Get it? This is important, so I'm going to give a personal example: In school I thought 4.0 was impossible, but maybe I could get a 3.5, which I barely reached. Then I transferred to another college where, starting over I decided to try for the 4.0. I graduated with above a 3.9.
So what do you have to lose? I'll tell you what! Your dreams. If you give up, you've lost. But if you keep reaching for those "crazy" goals, you just might get somewhere.


  1. I agree. We can have those larger goals in mind but set the realistic measurable goals that we have control over - to get there. And by shooting far our writing might just get better.

  2. Lisa! I love this. When I do therapy, I work with the client to set "overarching goals", which are the ultimate goals, ones we might not even reach by the end of therapy. And then we set "intermediate goals", which are the concrete steps that will be necessary to get from where we start to where the person wants to finish. It really is helpful to do things this way! Great post.

  3. I LOVE to be reminded to think of my goals and to set steps along the way. This may sound really weird, but one of my most effective tools for goal setting is to pace. I mean to literally walk back and forth. I have a long stretch through my house where I can do this. It seems the repetitive rhythm, once I've been pacing a while, gets me into a zone where I can dip clearly into my mind and figure out what it is I most want and how I want to achieve it.

    I also use this method for plotting and planning my stories. Thanks, Lisa for reminding me to pace today! :-)

  4. I love number 6! That's totally something I believe in! The higher I aim, the higher I'll get (provided I put work into my goal). I may not reach my original goal, but I'll get a heck of a lot more done than if I just decided to veg out and watch Real Housewives or Jersey Shore (not that you can't reap some fun characterization from watching those).

  5. Awesome!!! I totally agree. I'm always telling my students similar messages - time to talk to myself too :)

  6. Love this: "The higher you aim, the higher you reach."

    I firmly agree that we should aim as high as we can, but never feel disappointed over any aspect of the journey as long as we know we're continually striving toward our goals.

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  7. Great list. I've been thinking a lot lately about aiming higher than I usually do, so this really hit home.

  8. I love this because you mention things WE have control over. We can't control the pace of the industry, or what others will think of our work. All we can do is set personal goals where we rely on ourselves. Awesome!

  9. Laura - I wish I had your summarizing capabilities! Well put.

    Sarah - Yeah! *does a victory dance* I got it right.

    Susan - that is really cool about the pacing!

    Jess - I love that part too. Great realization for me.

    Jemi - never forget it applies to you too!

    Angela - Here here!

    MG - :D

  10. I shoot far by studying people whose success I'll likely never rival - the masters in the game. It's tricky to aim high but not convince yourself you'll never reach it - just like your example! Great post!

  11. Fantastic outline of a strategy for reaching/achieving goals. Having recently gotten back into writing in a very serious way, I am doing a lot of goal-examination and goal-setting. It's great getting to see how other people approach this.

  12. #5 is key...acknowledging what we've accomplished is huge. You don't have to be boastful to the world, but certainly celebrate that which we've done.

    My belief too, is that when we follow something like this, we lose our fear of not being good enough, and/or, face our fear of success. It's way to easy to hide behind the "it's too hard" or "that's not me" bar, but when we break those barriers, we find freedom which we are unaccustomed to. Also now we must face the world with our new found success, and sometimes we aren't sure how to do that...and we slink back into the "that's not me" zone.

    I keep my perspective away from "Look at what everyone else has done" to "Look at what I am doing that so many others aren't" and "If they can do it, it is possible that I can too. But maybe in my own way."

    At the end of the day, if I can smile at one thing I've done well, than it has been a great day, and tomorrow only looks better.

  13. Gosh I needed this today. Thank you! Been depressed for about a week from a huge rejection that I was way too sure was going to work out. I'm going to make my own dream list. Have a wonderful day!

  14. Susan - Thanks! :D Don't ever sell yourself short.

    Michael - Can't promise I represent a huge portion of writers, but I'm glad it was helpful!

    Dean - So well said!

    Tanya - You too! We've all been there. Even the superstars.

  15. Great list and very inspiring. I'm off to go talk to myself in the mirror now.

  16. I love this, I'm totally inspired! Thank you. I'm heading to the mirror now...

  17. Awww, I didn't think it was possible to read enother post on goals and be inspired. I loved that you included no time limit on goals & dreams. I've pretty much had to accept that writing takes about 4th place in my priorities right now and I know with it that far down the list, I'm not going to be achieving my goal of publication anytime soon. But someday I know I can bump it up the list!

  18. Elle and Heather - Hope the mirror treats you well!

    Margo - thanks. :D Just don't let it slide completely. Make sure you spend at least a tiny bit of time each day to keep you motivated.

  19. Totally love this list. Great set of goals. You were smart to put the 'decide what you really want' at the top of the list. For a long time my goal was 'finish my manuscript' or 'get on the NYTimes best seller list'. While both are still goals, what became very real for me was 'find someone who believes in my writing and will champion my work in the industry' aka 'get an agent'. That is the goal that feels like it's stretching me to do my best work, but also something I feel is imminently attainable.

  20. 3. I've been doing this a lot the last week. I'm so close to finishing my WIP, but many roadblocks have found me pushing it off. Unlike in bygone years, though, I know I'll get back to it. This is a part of my life, so sometimes (like everything else in my life!) I'll rock and others I'll just barely roll, and not too far down if I'm lucky!

    4. This reminds me of learning about SMART goals a few jobs ago, except with more honest and with less gratuitous acronyming--FTW!

    5. I absolutely love this! I kept a list of my successes at work one year, but I fell out of practice. It never occurred to me to keep a list of my writing successes, although one of my biggest inspirations is seeing that I've made progress toward something. I'm so happy to see it spelled out, so I can find my way back to it with less fumbling in the future!

  21. I've finished my latest manuscript and sent it off today. I got there by breaking my goals down even further.
    I will write every day
    I will write 500 words every day
    If I don't write 500 words I will not beat myself up, I'll just keep going.
    etc etc.

    I'm also a huge advocate of celebrating when you do achieve a goal. I just finished revising a 58,000 word manuscript. I've sent it to my agent. It's time for a walk in the sun with a smile on my face.
    I may return from the supermarket with sensible things like bread and milk, but it's highly likely a party-size pack of skittles will sneak in there too.

  22. The little goals that exist within the big goal are the ones that keep me moving. I set at least two "mini" goals so even when I reach one, there is still another waiting for me.

  23. I fully believe in the importance of setting minor goals that will get you to that big one. Writing a book has so many steps; breaking that goal into manageable pieces is what makes the whole thing possible for me.

    Becca @ The Bookshelf Muse

  24. These are great tips! I especially like #3 because making smaller goals makes you feel more confident you can achieve them.

  25. The lists work for me. Love it when I can check off one goal met. After a while I've actually climbed a mountain or two, one check mark at a time.

  26. Setting overarching goals is easy. Setting the short-term goals are really hard for me because I don't know how long it's going to take me to (for example) get my WIP ready to send to publishers. If I set a goal and then don't meet it, I feel bad and don't want to set those kind of goals anymore.

  27. I love your 6 point goal model! And your last paragraph might go up on my bulletin board. I don't think we can be reminded enough that we lose nothing but our dreams by giving up. Great post!